Untimely mutations: deterritorializing H.G. Wells's scientific romances

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis unites a selection of H. G. Wells’s scientific romances with the theoretical approaches of philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Deleuzian theory provides a challenging yet powerful set of conceptual tools, used to rethink existing texts and critical paradigms, allowing the revaluation of literature, film and other fields. Within specific case studies, various aspects of Wellsian texts are used to exemplify a number Deleuzian concepts; for example, ‘Becoming-Animal’ in The Island of Doctor Moreau, the ‘Body Without Organs’ in The War of The Worlds and ‘Nomadology’ in The Time Machine. Characteristically, rather than simply applying philosophy to the arts, Deleuzian theory attempts to extract philosophy from them, and this approach should aim to engage positively and constructively with a text, serving to demonstrate ‘productive use of the literary machine…that extracts from the text its revolutionary force’ (Anti-Oedipus 116). Via this process, various Wellsian conceits are examined that have subsequently become synonymous with the science fiction genre, such as transhumanism, alien invasion and time travel. In performing this process, Wells is recast as a writer and thinker who demonstrates resonance with Deleuze’s theoretical approach. Having established the value of a Deleuzian reading via the medium of the specific textual case-studies, the thesis concludes with an argument concerning whether Wells himself can be positioned in terms of a Deleuzian ‘conceptual persona’, and ultimately the question of his adherence to the concept of ‘minor’ literature and writing is addressed. Deleuze maintains that any work of art ‘points a way through life, finds a way through the cracks’ (Negotiations 143), and how Wells’s oeuvre engages with this process is demonstrated, taking into account the myriad of ‘mutations’ to which it has been subject. Ultimately, this serves to demonstrate the ‘untimely’ power of Wells’s literature; ‘acting counter to our time and thereby acting on our time and, let us hope, for the benefit of a time to come’ (Difference xix).
Date of Award2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton

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